Persecution is coming for believers in the West.

And that may not be a bad thing.

Ever since Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity way back when (313 A.D., to be exact!), life has been pretty good for followers of Jesus Christ in the Western world.  Relatively good, at least compared to much of the rest of the world. 

But Jesus promised His followers, along with the many blessings He gives, persecution. 

And as I said above, that may not be a bad thing.  Let me explain…

Up until the aforementioned Constantine made Christianity a legal religion in the Roman Empire, followers of Jesus were technically breaking the law.  As a result, they were often persecuted in the most severe ways.  If you want to read what some of those ways were, read the end of Hebrews 11.

Yet in spite of—or perhaps because of—this persecution, something amazing happened:  Jesus’ Great Commission was carried out more quickly and completely than at any other time in human history! 

The blood of the martyrs really is the seed of the church. When your life is daily on the line, it’s a lot easier to make it count.

Here’s the perspective:  Essentially on foot—without the aid of planes, trains or automobiles—in the first 300 years after Jesus’ Resurrection, the Gospel was carried by the 12 Apostles and subsequent Christians to most of the known world.  As far East as India.  As far South as central Africa.  As far North as Great Britain.  And as far West as Spain. 

Wow!

In fact, once Christianity was legalized, the Great Commission for the most part stopped.  For about the next 1400 years, the only real breakthrough into new Gospel territory was in parts of the world that had not even been discovered when the early believers were being persecuted—the Americas and Australia!  Until William Carey, in the late 1700s, jumpstarted the Modern Missions Movement, Jesus’ Great Commission was basically stuck in neutral. 

Folks, that’s over 1400 years of general Missions inactivity.  Welcome to the real Dark Ages. 

I know, I know, really huge and really elaborate cathedrals were built.  And amazing music was composed.  And beautiful statues and paintings were created. 

But Jesus didn’t tell us to go into the world and paint.  Or sculpt.  Or build. 

He told us to go into the world and preach!

And that’s what the persecuted believers in the early church did.  Really well.  Better, in fact, than anyone has until maybe the past few decades.  And to be fair, perhaps the only reason we’ve even come close to catching up is because of the huge advantage technology has afforded us. 

How did the early believers do so well? 

One word.  Persecution. 

The blood of the martyrs really is the seed of the church.  When your life is daily on the line, it’s a lot easier to make it count.   Acts 8 says it so well:  “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria…Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.”  Persecution weeds out the indifferent, and strengthens the resolve of the faithful. 

So persecution is coming for believers in the West.  The recent Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage has set the precedent, and the legal system is all about precedent.  The religious freedom of Bible-believing followers of Jesus will be sacrificed on the altar of sexual expression.  Pandora’s Box has been opened, and things will get worse before they get better.  Much, much worse. 

The florist in Washington.  The baker in Oregon.  The Marine serving our nation.  The Fire Chief in Atlanta.  From coast to coast, Bible-believing Christians are being sued and losing their jobs as they are being targeted by some members of the LGBT community to see how deeply-held their convictions really are.  Churches and non-profits will be next, and how one feels about homosexuality will become the legal litmus test.  If recent past events hold true, the first form of persecution will come in the form of attempts to bankrupt believers in Jesus.  The Bible says “The wealth of the wicked is being stored up for the righteous.”  Recent events inspired by the Rainbow Warriors are trying to prove that Scripture wrong.

Persecution is coming for believers in the West.

And that may not be a bad thing.  Because as believers—those who will not bend their knees to a culture that has made bad laws, and keeps making them—begin to lose their life savings; as believers lose the right to free speech; as churches lose their non-profit status; as we all, together, begin to experience in a small way what believers in other parts of our world have experienced for centuries, something wonderful will begin to happen. 

We will begin to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all nations!  In short, we will begin doing what Jesus has simply told us to do all along. 

Remember, when your life is daily on the line, it’s a lot easier to make it count.  That’s what happened to the Apostles and the early believers.  And by God’s grace, that’s what will happen to us too!  And then, finally, after all these centuries, the Gospel will be preached to all nations, and then the end will come!

So I guess when all is said and done, we’re left with two things:

Persecution is coming for believers in the West.

And that may not be a bad thing.

2 Comments